November 6, 2014 / 9:33 PM / 3 years ago

'Guardians', 'Maleficent' drive Disney's revenue higher

The entrance gate to The Walt Disney Co is pictured in Burbank, California February 5, 2014.Mario Anzuoni

(Reuters) - Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) reported a better-than-expected 7 percent increase in quarterly revenue on Thursday, driven by hit movies "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Maleficent."

"Guardians," which was released in July, and "Maleficent," starring Angelina Jolie as a black-robed villain, helped drive almost 18 percent growth in Disney's movie studio unit.

Disney's shares were off 1.8 percent at $90.35 in extended-trading, after closing at a record high of $92 on Thursday.

"Guardians" features a machine-gun-toting raccoon amid a cast of misfit super heroes. "Maleficent" brings back one of Disney's most popular character since she appeared as the wicked fairy in the 1959 animated feature "Sleeping Beauty".

The studio business also benefited from strong DVD sales of "Frozen," a story about two royal sisters in an icy kingdom.

Operating income at sports behemoth ESPN declined due to higher contract rates for high-end National Football League and Major League Baseball games, which helped drag down the company's cable networks unit by 1 percent.

The drop in operating income at cable networks likely drove Disney shares lower, said Gabelli & Company analyst Brett Harriss, who rates Disney a "hold." "Cable networks were a little weak," he said.

Harriss said he expected ESPN would make up for the higher programing costs in future quarters through higher fees from affiliates.

Revenue in Disney's Media Networks, home to Disney channels, ESPN and ABC, rose 5.5 percent due to higher broadcasting revenue from shows such as "Shark Tank" and "America's Funniest Home Videos."

Parks and resorts revenue rose 7 percent due to increased attendance and higher ticket prices for theme park admissions.

Net income attributable to Walt Disney rose to $1.50 billion, or 86 cents per share, in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 27, from $1.39 billion, or 77 cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned 89 cents per share, in line with analysts' estimates.

Revenue rose to $12.39 billion, marginally above the average analyst estimate of $12.37 billion.

Disney's slate of releases for the current quarter are "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" released in October and "Into the Woods" to be released at Christmas.

Up to Thursday's close, the stock has gained about 20 percent this year.

Reporting by Lehar Maan in Bangalore and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Ronald Grover and Leslie Adler

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